Constitutional Law

Mass. Judge Under Ethics Probe for Alleged Bias Questions Agency's Power

Under investigation concerning a claimed pro-criminal-defendant bias during his 21 years on the bench, a Massachusetts state-court judge is challenging the authority of the Commission on Judicial Conduct to probe into his thinking concerning the rulings he made.

Judge Raymond G. Dougan, joined by a number of retired state and federal jurists who say that there should be an absolute confidentiality privilege for judicial decision-making, is asking the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to quash an investigatory subpoena, the Boston Globe reports.

Attorney Michael B. Keating, who represents Dougan, argued in briefing for a hearing this week that, like jury deliberations, a judge’s thoughts should be secret. Other judges say they fear that allowing a prosecutor to, in effect, punish a judge whose rulings he disagrees with threatens judicial independence.

However, special counsel J. William Codinha argued that the power of the commission to make such inquiries is the only way to hold judges, who have lifetime appointments, accountable for their behavior, the newspaper reports. Otherwise, if the court were to rule in Dougan’s favor, “no sitting judge need ever remain truly impartial, for he may not be asked under oath if he is, and any improper bias or influence can remain safely concealed,” Codinha wrote.

Dougan sits on the Boston Municipal Court.

Related coverage: “Prosecutor Wants Lenient Judge Ousted From All Criminal Cases”

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